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The best and worst movies of 2018: A retrospective from AiPT!

AiPT! looks back at the movies of 2018.

The end of the year has finally (already?) arrived and it is time to look back at the year in movies. As with any other year, there were good movies and bad ones. This year seemed to have a particularly memorable moments. From destructive finger snaps to forgettable Star Wars movies, 2018 was a unique year for movies. The staff at AiPT! look back some of their favorite and not so favorite movies of 2018.

What was your favorite movie of the year? 

Rory Wilding: For the longest time, I was torn between Hereditary, which chilled me to the core and Cold War, which uplifted my spirits despite its melancholic tone. However, 2018 saved the best for last with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which achieved things I never thought I wanted. With its unique blend of 2D and 3D animation to reflect the pages of a comic book and a multi-dimensional narrative that brings a diversity of spider-people together, whilst telling the central origin story of Miles Morales’ journey into becoming Spider-Man, Spider-Verse embraces the central message of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s creation in how anyone can be under the mask and be the hero of their own story.

Alex Curtis: Roma directed by Alfonso Cuaron overpowered me with emotion. Roma is paradoxically both slick and grounded. Many scenes are so vast and meticulous in scope, they feel like documentary footage. I’m not the world’s most stoic guy, but I cried numerous times as characters revealed themselves across the retro landscape of Cuaron’s childhood.

Michael Rosch: It’s a toss up for me between BlacKkKlansman and First Reformed. Both are excellent films that speak directly to current issues on the minds of so many in the year 2018. But, if I have to pick one over the other at this moment, I’m going with Paul Schrader‘s First Reformed, which is certainly Schrader’s best writing since Taxi Driver. There are moments in this film that even evoke that previous work as Ethan Hawke’s despondent Reverend Toller wrestles with big concerns about justice and that inescapable question: will God forgive us for destroying his creation?

Justin Cohen: I still need to see a few films that could contend for my favorite, but as of now I have to go with Mission: Impossible – Fallout. It delivered the way that old school blockbuster franchises always used to. It was entertaining in every way from start to finish, and Tom Cruise goes above and beyond with the crazy stunts he does in this one. The story was solid, the action was amazing, and it tied up loose ends from previous installments. In my opinion, this is what a blockbuster should be like in 2018. I also want to note how fantastic a comedy I thought Tag was. Favorite mainstream comedy in a long time. I saw it twice opening weekend I enjoyed it so much and laughed so frequently.

Dave Brooke: I second Justin on this one. Mission Impossible Fallout did a lot of things artistically that pushed the action genre. It was super long yet didn’t seem so when you watched it. It also had plenty of practical stunts to make all these CGI heavy action films go home to mommy.

Megan Wallen: My absolute favorite release of the year was the Netflix original 6 Balloons. Dave Franco plays a heroin addict and father of a young toddler and Abbi Jacobson plays his sister, who drives him through the city in search of a rehab. This is Franco’s best work to date. His acting is beautiful and the film’s message was one that was close to my heart: learning to let go with love. I also want to shout out Beautiful Boy.

Nathaniel Muir: Spider-Verse was easily the best animated movie I saw this year and from when I first saw it in February until the second week of December, there was not a better overall movie than The Death of Stalin. I then saw The Favourite. Great acting, a powerful score, and an engaging story are part of the most incredible movie experience I had this year. The film makes you feel a myriad of emotions and has some of the wittiest dialogue of the year. This is the definition of Best Picture.

Davis Pittman: There were so many great ones this year. I loved Boy Erased, Ben is Back, Aquaman, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Annihilation, Unsane, Halloween, A Star is Born, Bad Times at the El Royale but for me it came down between the two films I gave 10’s this year: Hereditary and A Simple Favor. It was very close, but for me A Simple Favor is my second favorite and Hereditary comes out as my #1 best of the year.

What was the worst movie you saw this year? 

Rory: Nothing has angered me more than The Predator and that largely comes down to Shane Black, a man who has had previous history with the franchise, and really should know better. For much of the film, it plays more like someone doing a half-baked impression on Black as the script never delivers in outrageously funny one-liners as expected from the director. With constant callbacks to John McTiernan’s 1987 classic, which had a simplicity, as oppose to this film, which is constantly pulling in different directions, all of which are unsuccessful, most notably its problematic mental health message.

Alex C: Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade is an affront to cinema as an art-form. Lazy worldbuilding, hacky characterization, embarrassing twists, abysmal dialog, ugly cinematography, predictable plotting, and a half-baked Black Mirror ending shredded my sanity and faith in the popular consensus.

Michael: My worst movie of the year hasn’t changed since this question was asked back in July. The Cloverfield Paradox was a toxic garbage fire starring talent far too good for it. It lacked all of the intelligence and subtlety that made 10 Cloverfield Lane one of my favorite films of 2016. And I find offensive this franchise’s penchant for buying up original material and then spending seemingly no more than 10 minutes effort grafting Cloverfield iconography onto the film without any thought to basic narrative logic or coherence. This film takes place decades in our future, yet is a prequel to the first Cloverfield that takes place around 1999. It feels like the worst offender in the classic criticism of JJ Abrams throwing random mysteries at the audience without any thought put into ever solving them. This isn’t fun bad; it’s just bad bad. People should have been fired over this.

Justin: 2018 was probably my least favorite year in film that I can remember. There were not many great, original films released and a handful of sequels and other films were disappointing. It’s between Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but I think I have to give the edge to The Crimes of Grindelwald. It was bad beyond belief. The first one was great and introduced us to a story and characters that were worth investing in. This sequel had a convoluted plot that didn’t make much sense, weak character development, and a lack of heart or chemistry between characters. It was one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen in a while, and I’m not sure how they’re going to rebound with the third installment.

Dave: Again, I’m going to go with Justin on this one. I liked the first Fantastic Beasts and I had high hopes the second film would be better (after working out all the kinks). Boy was I wrong. The film was clunky as it attempted to set up new characters and overarching arcs for future films. It suffered much like Batman v Superman in that way. The editing was clunky and awkward too and the final action sequence was slow and horrid.

Nathaniel: Truth or Dare was an awful movie. And not in the “so bad it’s good” way. Lazy dialogue, bad acting, and boring plot make this an absolute chore to sit through. How can things get any worse? Assassination Nation is exactly the same with a forced message of social awareness. Take your pick. The movie that is bad or the one that thinks it’s too intelligent to be.

Davis: With all the really good films that came out this year, there was some bad too. For me, my worst list includes: The First Purge, The House with a Clock in its Walls, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. I went back and forth between Fifty Shades Freed and Slender Man for the worst, and while Fifty Shades was horrible even it was less painful to get through than Slender Man, which is why it’s my #1.  

What was the best performance of the year? 

Rory: As someone who has previously worked in horror cinema from The Sixth Sense to Krampus, Toni Collette gives a career-best performance in Ari Aster’s masterful debut Hereditary. Playing somewhat an antagonist towards her own family, Collette shows a real range of emotions that are terrifying that even when the film does lean into the familiarity of the horror genre, it is credited to her performance that maintains the film’s slow intensity.

Alex C: Has to go to Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the plodding hitman Joe in You Were Never Really Here. Phoenix is so vulnerable, he’s like a raw, pulsating nerve that won’t stop seething with trauma. Phoenix is an actor that embodies his roles even down to the physical, and just seeing his lumbering, meaty frame is enough to elicit chills and empathy.

Michael: Nothing has performed harder this year than Tom Cruise’s physical body, which the aging cultist pushed to the absolute limit in this year’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Cruise’s real life may be one constant acting performance, and all three of his ex-wives are contractually obligated to never tell you what they really think of him, but I’ll be damned if the man doesn’t make good movie. And, as he’s grown into the hardest working action hero in Hollywood, he’s taken on more and more of his own stunt work. Past M:I films saw him literally climb the Burj Khalifa and hang outside an airplane as it takes off. This time, he performed over a hundred HALO jumps, got thrown from a moving motorcycle, and not only learned to pilot a helicopter but learned to stunt pilot a helicopter for the film’s climactic aerial chase sequence. Oh yeah, and he famously shattered his whole freakin’ foot on that shot that made it into the movie where he leaps from one rooftop to another. It’s a performance so tremendous it overshadows even Henry Cavill’s awe-inspiring mustache.

Justin: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. He is Freddie. He recreates the famous Live Aid performance in full with almost every exact detail of the performance re-enacted. The film itself had some flaws, but his performance was nothing short of spectacular. I have to give an honorable mention to Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born as he blew me away. I’ve always thought of him as a good actor but not necessarily amazing. He becomes this character and gives his best performance to date.

Dave: There were a lot of good performances this year, but Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s performances in A Star is Born were so genuine I can’t help but think of them first. Cooper’s voice transformation is particularly stunning and the tragic character he plays is heartfelt and real. I’d give it to Cooper although without Lady Gaga that role would be nothing.

Megan: Again, I’m gonna mention 6 Balloons’ Dave Franco. He has a specific voice that really made him perfect for his role, especially when he screamed or cried or begged, the desperation came across perfectly because his entire voice would change. I also want to give a mention to Blindspotting‘s Rafael Casal, Beautiful Boy‘s Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet and Sorry To Bother You‘s Lakeith Stanfield.

Nathaniel: I agree with Rory and Justin. Toni Collette was amazing and Rami Malek saves an otherwise lackluster film. Jake Johnson also deserves a shout out for his performance in Spider-Verse. But the best performance of the year goes to Olivia Colman’s performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Part Michael Scott, part terrifying monarch, Colman plays the role perfectly as the manipulative and manipulated source of attention.

Davis: Bear with me because a lot needs to be mentioned here. Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges were both great in Boy Erased, Julia Roberts in Ben is Back, Blake Lively blew me away in A Simple Favor, Chris Hemsworth gave the best performance I’ve seen from him in Bad Times at the El Royale, Jennifer Jason Leigh in Annihilation, Olivia Colman was fantastic in The Favourite, but for me the number one performance of the year was Toni Collette in Hereditary. She just commands every scene and has such intensity, if she doesn’t get at least an Oscar nomination, something is wrong.

What was the most pleasant surprise of the year?

Rory: As this year marks the 40th anniversary of John Carpenter’s Halloween, I initially dismissed the idea of yet another installment, even if Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her iconic role as Laurie Strode. Knowing that David Gordon Green’s direct sequel to Carpenter’s film has polarized critics, I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was in how it pays respect towards one of the great slasher films ever made, feeling both old and new. But do I want to see another killing spree from Michael Myers? Probably not.

Alex C:  Y’all are gonna hate me for this–but Venom. Not because it’s good. Far from it. It gloriously feels like two movies. On the one hand, it’s a wannabe edgy thriller in the vein of the failed Amazing Spider-Man franchise. But on the other hand–it feels like Ruben Fleischer seeing how stupid and campy he can push the premise before Sony shuts him down. I was gasping for breathe between guffaws by the time Eminem closed us out with his hilariously goofy song.

Michael: I expected to like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but didn’t expect to consider among the best of the year. Much like Avengers:  Infinity War, it’s a remarkable juggling act of tones, ranging from the very dramatic to the absurd. That they were able to make Spider-Ham work in a film that hits so many strong emotional beats is a testament to what great writing and performances can do.

Justin: Tomb Raider. I didn’t think there was a chance it could even be decent, and it was pretty damn good. It wasn’t anything amazing, but it was an enjoyable action/adventure film with a solid plot, some fun set pieces, and decent performances.

Dave: I was on the fence about Bohemian Rhapsody due to all the drama leading up to its release. Bryan Singer was not showing up to set and supposedly he and Rami Malek weren’t seeing eye to eye. There was rumors the movie was whitewashing the fact that Freddie Mercury was gay (not true) and on top of al that pulling off a musical biopic is no easy task! I was pleasantly surprised by the final product.

Megan: Personally, I was surprised by Todd Berger’s Cover Versions. It’s a lesser-known mystery full of a lot of former Nickelodeon and Disney stars all participating in foul language, drugs and sex, but it was actually great and the twist ending had me shook. Also, another thing I really like about this year are all the memes that have come out of the Netflix original Bird Box.

Nathaniel: With apologies to Alex, I am going with Upgrade. The trailer looked horrible, but I ended up watching it anyway. There are some cliche characters and the story isn’t going to win any originality awards for originality, but few movies were as entertaining. It was a simple action movie that was all about having fun. And sometimes that’s all you need.

Davis: I realize I’m alone with this opinion and that’s fine, but I enjoyed Truth or Dare, I was scared it would be like Ouija or something awful like that, but I personally found it to be really fun. The Spy who Dumped Me was another one that I enjoyed very much, surprisingly so. Halloween was another one, I was nervous it would fail, but thankfully, quite the contrary.

What was the biggest disappointment of the year?

Rory: Seen by many as the Black Widow movie Marvel hasn’t made yet based on the promos, but after seeing the latest collaboration between Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence, it makes you wish that Marvel hopefully doesn’t go down this bleak path with their red-haired Russian superspy. Too long and relies too heavily in the graphic violence and sex, Red Sparrow is all style and no substance and really lets down the greatness that is Jennifer Lawrence.

Alex C: I’d heard significant praise for Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You and was accordingly pumped for some wacky, socially conscious satire. While it’s certainly weird and even hilarious in it’s blunt attitude, none of its disparate tones and elements congeal into a solid, satisfying film.

Michael: The Happytime Murders could have been this generation’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Instead, it was a steaming mess. Nothing worked in this movie, and everything it was trying to go for had been done better elsewhere. Foul-mouthed puppets used for adult humor? Better in Meet the Feebles. Over the top, hardcore sex sequences with puppets? Better in Team America: World Police. Noir story incorporating creatures more at home in children’s stories? Roger Rabbit did it a million times better. Every joke in this thing fell flat, and Melissa McCarthy was totally wasted here.

Justin: Action Point. I love nearly anything Johnny Knoxville does and I love the Jackass films and television series. When I heard Knoxville and fellow Jackass alum Chris Pontius were starring in a film about saving an old school amusement park where Knoxville performs all his own stunts, I was very much looking forward to some old fashioned fun in what would probably be an ok movie. It was pretty terrible. The stunts weren’t that impressive or funny, and the script was flat out bad.

Dave: Red Sparrow was incredibly bad. Very boring, little substance, and a film that required its sexuality to work at all. I saw the film and thought it was a poor spy drama. I then saw it again on a plane with all the nudity and sexuality stripped from it. It was fascinating to see any substance was erased with the sexuality removed.

Megan: I was somewhat excited for Truth Or Dare, Skyscraper and The Meg. I was lucky to have not been able to go to the theater to see them because I would have been so disappointed. All three had poor writing and cheesy, predictable scripts.

Nathaniel: When I saw the trailers for Bad Times at the El Royale, I knew it could only go in two directions. It was either going to be really bad or really good; there was no chance for a middle ground here. Almost immediately, you could tell it was not going to be a really bad movie. Unfortunately, it never got really good either. A generic story and anticlimactic ending led to one of the most surprisingly bland movies of the year.

Davis: I was really excited for the The First Purge, but man was I disappointed by what I was given. This was a very weak, boring, and largely uninteresting final installment in the purge franchise. The House with a Clock in its Walls is another one that really let me down, I thought a family friendly magical film starring Cate Blanchett would be fun… not so much. But for me, the number one disappointment of 2018 was A Wrinkle in Time. This film could have been so amazing if there was just more effort. It had everything going for it, it had Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and a director that’s done quality work. Also, the diversity presented was so exciting, but instead of taking advantage of the talent, they wasted it. It’s almost insulting that they thought this would suffice, why not take advantage of such a wonderfully diverse cast and bring young girls a great film to admire?

What was your favorite movie moment of the year?

Rory: If we’re getting into spoilers, nothing has been more powerful this year than the climatic snap in Avengers: Infinity War. As both the antagonist and main character, Josh Brolin’s Thanos is a character you love to hate, especially when he finally succeeds in what he set out to do, leaving some of our heroes emotionally devastated and the rest literally turn to dust. Whatever enthusiasm you went into the biggest movie of 2018, you walked out of the screening feeling a wave of emotions, mostly not happiness.

Alex C: A Star Is Born is not a great movie. The second half really brings the whole affair down by stripping Gaga of her agency. But I had big-time chills when she went on stage for the first time and hollered out Shallow at the top of her supersonic lungs.

Michael: I concur on both The Avengers’ ending and the Shallow performance in A Star is Born. But, of the two, I’m going with Avengers: Infinity War. Though I’ll narrow it down slightly to one particular death, that of Peter Parker (weirdly, only the first of two Peter Parker deaths we got on screen in 2018). The emotional weight of Peter’s final moments is a testament to the success of the MCU experiment. If there hadn’t been any previous history with these characters outside of this single film, it wouldn’t hit so hard. It’s that we’ve watched Tony grow into his surrogate parental role in Peter’s life over multiple films that makes this such a gutpunch. We know what this kid means to him and have spent ten years watching Tony’s character evolve from that smug jerk in the beginning of the first Iron Man. All of that history makes for a truly heartbreaking scene as Tony watches the closest thing he’s had to a son evaporate before his very eyes.

Justin: The climactic scene in the lighthouse in Annihilation. I love sci-fi films, and I particularly love when they “go for it” and go full out sci-fi by the end. This is one of those films, and that lengthy scene in the lighthouse with its eerie, ambient score and Alex Garland’s take on this alien lifeform had my eyes glued to the screen in awe. The Live Aid concert scene in Bohemian Rhapsody is a close second.

Dave: Mission Impossible: Fallout was my favorite film (see my top ten list here). It may not have delivered the emotionality of BlacKkKlansman, or the incredible drama of A Star is Born, but it did things with visuals, editing, and story I did not expect. I’ve liked all the Mission Impossible movies (maybe not 2 so much), but this film reenergized me for more spy dramas in an impossible way.

Nathaniel: “I like when she puts her tongue in me.”

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